Blueprint: I'll be onstage at Soundset for almost 10 hours
Rhymesayers label treasure and representative Blueprint is an articulate and prolific figure. Founder of Weightless Recordings, half of the super-duos Soul Position with RJD2 and Greenhouse Effect with Illogic, and a standout solo member of the biggest independent label in the region, the veteran emcee/producer that goes by Printmatic, or even just Al, celebrates nearly 15 years of putting Midwest rap on the map this weekend.
Charged with the task of warming up the Soundset Festival patrons with a headlining show at the Triple Rock on Saturday night, and then hosting the festival itself the next day, Blueprint paused to connect with Gimme Noise on his history with Rhymesayers, future projects, and how he'll handle his responsibilities at the landmark event that features headliners Atmosphere, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and many more first-class rap acts.
Gimmie Noise: You did a considerable amount of touring recently. Did life on the road, and the mix of cities you hit treat you well?
Blueprint: Touring as been really good lately. There were moments in the past when it was a little tougher for me physically, simply because I was still drinking heavily and wasn't really eating right at the time either. Since I've started taking better care of myself, I've had a lot more fun out there. This winter I headlined a bunch of shows in Florida, as well as Alaska and Seattle, and all of them went well. I had a few years where I wasn't headlining that much, but lately I've been making an effort to start headlining shows more because I finally feel like my stage show is ready.
Equipment-wise, what does your touring rig look like these days?
This year it's been me and my DJ, Rare Groove. I also rock with an effects pedal and play keys on stage.
Now that you're back home let's talk about your region. How important is Soundset Festival for the Midwest hip-hop scene?
The Soundset Festival is a very important festival for Rhymesayers. It's the one time of the year that all of our artists are in attendance for our fans to meet, greet, and watch perform. I also think it's a pretty big statement to make as a label. To bring out 20,000 people out for one day where the labels artists headline and are the main draw.
Briefly tell us when and how you came on board the Rhymesayers label.
I think I met all Slug, Eyedea, & Abilities around 1999, and everybody else at the label shortly after. There were a couple guys I already knew that weren't working for Rhymesayers yet back then like Kevin Beacham and J-Bird as well. All of the artists became friends and would exchange music on tapes. They were some of the first people who ever heard Soul Position and were interested in it, so RJD2 and I felt really comfortable releasing music with them. I consider those guys my friends.
As co-host of Soundset Festival with Sway and J Pratt, what responsibilities did Rhymesayers impart on you in that role?
Rhymesayers never actually told me what to do, probably because they know I already know, but my role is to make sure the people know what's going on and that they're excited about it. A good host knows that it's not about them. It's about the crowd and the artists. My plan is to keep things moving on time, make the artists comfortable, and make sure the fans know what is about to happen throughout the day.
Is your headlining slot at the pre-festival show at The Triple Rock with Illogic, Mally, and DJ Rare Groove ample compensation for your hard work the next day at festival?
I hope so! [laughs]. I've never actually hosted an event as long as Soundset, so I'm not sure how much it's going to wear me out physically. I know it won't be easy, but I'm going to be ready. The pre-festival show helps me make sure that my fans have a proper opportunity to see me, because I may not be as accessible at the festival. I'll be onstage almost non-stop for almost 10 hours straight. Leaves little time to really socialize.
Do you have anything in the works for that night that will deviate from the norm?
There are a couple new songs that I'm thinking about trying out. I will have Illogic with me so we'll probably do some material together.
Last time we spoke you were rearranging your house in order to center your creative mind. Has that effort brought about some new music projects we should know about?
Oh yeah. It really helped me get focused in my writing again. I've been working on a new Soul Position album with RJD2 and a new EP with Aesop Rock. I'm also finishing up the next Greenhouse album with Illogic. Having my working space organized really helped me get on track with all those projects. I was really stuck for a while there.
I'm not going to label you and say you're a conscious rapper, but you're adept at tackling cohesive topics. If you were to write right now for a track, what topics would you dig into?
Right now, what's been on my mind most is the struggle of trying to find ways to make a difference. How to appreciate what you have long enough that you feel comfortable sharing your energy and resources with others. It's something that I think people struggle with every day. We tell ourselves that we have so far to go that we often put our face down and plow forward, but sometimes we forget that there are others who can be helped by having access to us, whether that be our time, our energy, or our experience. The struggle to be an asset to our communities. We forget how blessed we are sometimes. That's been on my mind a lot lately. Just trying to figure out ways to help or inspire others who may need it. So I'd probably write something about that.
What about your other writing? I loved the last book Adventures In Counter-Culture, and recently you said you were busy with something new. Will we get more literary work out of you?
Definitely. I've got a new book I'm writing heavily for that's about the worst shows of my touring career. I just got heavily into it a couple weeks ago, but I hope to have a first draft finished this month. The book is going to be funny and tragic at the same time, but I think people will really dig it. My goal is to release it this summer.
Blueprint is at Triple Rock Social Club for the Pre-SoundSet Throwdown, May 25 and hosting SoundSet Festival, May 26. Tickets and info for the show here and for the festival here.